Sourdough FAQ Recipes
Explanation about Starter Recipes.

    A word or two of explaination are in order about the use of "starter
    recipes."  These recipes are quite unlike almost all recipes in that
    in them one is trying to "create life".  Well sort of.  A sourdough
    culture is a living thing, or at least a collection of millions of
    living micro-organisms.  In actuality these recipes are not really
    the whitchcraft that they may at first seem to be.  While we may not
    be able to create these micro-organisms, we may be able to atract them,
    or even hunt them down in their own environments, and domesticate them
    or subject them to slavery.  ;^)

    Most sourdough cultures contain some species of yeast, and at least
    one strain of lactobacilli.  These micro-organisms are found in many
    places in the environment around us.  You may recognize lactobacilli
    as one of the bacteria that makes yogurt.  Various strains or species
    of lactobacilli are also involved in making sour cream, cheese, butter-
    milk, and other cultured milk products.  Sometimes lactobacilli is to
    blame when milk just goes sour.  Hence some sourdough "starter recipes 
    use milk to help attract lactobacilli, and some actually use ingredients 
    like yogurt to introduce lactobacilli.  

    Different species or strains of lactobacilli are responsible, in large
    part for the different flavors and textures of the many different
    varieties of cheese and other cultured milk products.  Similarly
    different strains or species of lactobacilli are mainly responsible
    for the different flavors produced by different sourdough cultures. 

    Lactobacilli are also responsible for making sauerkraut, brine cured
    pickles, and borscht.  Usually the lactobacilli used in these recipes
    is on the vegetables at the time they are harvested.  Hence we would
    not be too surprised to see recipes calling for the use of grape leaves
    or some other vegetable substance. 

    Often times the very collection of micro-organisms we desire to gather
    resides on the grain we intend to use for flour.  This explains the
    use of rye flour in "Manuel's Starter" or the use of whole wheat
    or even unbleached white flour in a starter recipe.  (Bleaching may
    kill some of the micro-orgainsms.)  Rye flour is almost notorious
    for creating a very sour culture.  (See the article on Borodin style
    bread in recipe #211 below.)

    The factors that determine the selection of a strain of yeast are
    no less important or complicated than those which govern selection
    of lactobacilli strains.  For example _Saccharomyces cerevisiae_
    is the scientific name given to bakers' yeast.  Homebrew enthusiasts
    will recognize this also as brewers' yeast.  (Different strains are
    used for each application.  Brewers also use _S.  carlsbergensis_)   
    _Saccharomyces cerevisiae_ does not well tolerate an acidic environment
    such as is found in a sourdough culture.  The lactobacilli are 
    constantly producing lactic acids which give the bread its sour
    taste.  Hence a culture that begins with active dry yeast can
    never really become more than very mildly sour unless at some time
    the culture is invaded by another kind of yeast.  

    Many (Most?) sourdough cultures contain a strain of _Saccharomyces 
    exiguus_, which does of course tolerate rather acidic conditions. 
    Hence, some starter recipes include vinegar in order to make the
    batter acidic so as to prevent bakers' yeast from getting a start
    and selecting in favor of _Saccharomyces exiguus_.

    Location may also prove to be an important factor as some strains
    of desired micro-organisms may be more prevelant in some habitats,
    such as the San Francisco bay area, or Germany, for example.

    Of course none of the starter recipes are guarenteed to work.  These
    creatures may seem to have a mind of their own.  If you are unsuccessful
    perhaps you might try agin, or in another place or season of the year,
    or you might try another recipe.  

    If you are frustrated with all that, you might consider obtaining a
    culture from someone who already has one.  You probably have a
    neighbor or relative who has a culture.  Otherwise you can obtain
    a culture from one of a variety of comercial sources.  Also many
    of the readers of this newsgroup have offered to share cultures
    for as little effort required as sending a self addressed stamped
    envelope (SASE) and a ziplock bag.  Many of these cultures have been
    in continuous use for nearly a hundred years.  Some cultures (such
    as the Mid-Eastern cultures from Sourdoughs International) may go
    back for thousands of years.  If you peruse the FAQ file
    you will find the addresses of several comercial companies as well
    as several individuals who are willing to share cultures.

    Whether you decide to try to capture a new culture, or go with an
    ancient one, I wish you the best of luck, and do let the group know
    how things go.

                        Sourdough Dave   (  
    I would like to thank Charles Delwiche for helping me to understand
    much of the biology involved, however any innacuracies portrayed are
    entirely my own responsibility.

    Also I note that I contradict myself with respect to Manuel's starter.
    (It begins with a grain of bakers' yeast.)  Perhaps the hope is that
    at some point a wild yeast will take over?  Has anybody tried it 
    with out the use of any bakers' yeast?